The following is a recap by Andrew Mandel of Strong East Ramapo of the 2 hour public meeting at the Cultural Arts Center:
In case you missed tonight’s RCC two-hour public meeting with Commissioner Elia and Monitors John Sipple and Chuck Szuberla (featuring Chancellor of the Board of Regents Betty Rosa in the audience), here are some highlights:
— Full house! At one point, seats were hard to come by in the Cultural Arts Center. Bravo to parents — many of whom have kindergarteners — for making your presence felt.
— Full-day K is great for this year, but what’s up for next year? Chuck Szuberla indicated that he and John Sipple will prioritize the financial planning necessary to ensure that the district is not introducing programs one year only to eliminate them the following year. Commissioner Elia reiterated the point by saying it is a goal for full-day kindergarten to return again next year. The crowd applauded upon hearing that.
— Facilities are also a major concern, and Commissioner Elia and Dr. Wortham urged passage of an upcoming $52M bond. Dr. Wortham indicated that the
bond would cost each household an additional $15 per year.
— Several people raised questions about the use of substitute teachers, as well as overflowing class sizes, and Commissioner Elia and Dr. Wortham said these issues are being worked out now. Dr. Wortham indicated that there was some sudden influx of high school students that apparently was not anticipated. (I want to learn more about this.)
— Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee noted that she’s going to sponsor legislation to restore Sabrina Charles-Pierre’s full term in office.
— Dr. Wortham sidestepped a question about gifted and talented programs by saying that the schools assess and differentiate their instruction (which is not the same as a pull-out program for students identified as gifted and talented).
— Several attendees asked questions about the investigation of proper use of funds for non-public schools; Elia said the monitors would be investigating.
— Commissioner Elia agreed that the current level of performance for English language learners was unacceptable (two percent proficiency in 3rd-8th grade English and math) and that the state would be lending its own expertise to addressing the needs of these students.
— Chuck Szuberla said that the goal is not to balance the budget, but to ensure a high-quality education for all children. (Good answer, Chuck!) His cell phone number is: 518-410-7456
in case you need to text him.
— Luis Nivelo ended the evening by pointing out that, despite this step of progress, the issue of trust remains. He then asked for comments from the stoic President Yehuda Weissmandl, who did not speak. “When we have no trust, we have no respect,” Luis said.
I will be meeting with Dr. Wortham tomorrow to learn more about the $2.4 million federal grant for Chestnut Ridge Middle School, so I’ll share more once I synthesize my notes.